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Worker shortage keeps Buffalo Niagara job market lukewarm

The scarcity of workers kept the Buffalo Niagara job market lukewarm in March.

The latest job data from the state Labor Department shows that the Buffalo Niagara employment market keeps growing slowly as employers struggle to find qualified workers to fill open positions.

The region added jobs at a 0.5 percent annualized pace during March — the second-slowest growth rate for any March in the last four years.

At the same time, revised data for February, based on more extensive information filed with the state by employers, showed that February’s job growth improved by 300 jobs since the initial report a month ago.

“We’re right where we’ve been for the last little bit,” said Timothy Glass, the Labor Department’s regional economist in Buffalo. “The job market is still good.”

The region added 3,000 jobs over the past year as hiring jumped at local construction companies and in education and health services.

That offset a big drop in jobs at temporary help agencies — possibly because temporary workers are finding full-time jobs in the strong labor market — and declines in employment in wholesale trade and at local bars, restaurants and hotels.

Glass thinks the difficulty employers are having in finding qualified workers to fill their open positions is keeping a lid on the region’s job growth.

Hiring by private-sector businesses — which excludes government jobs — was slightly faster than the Buffalo Niagara region’s overall job growth rate. Private sector hiring grew by an annualized rate of 0.6 percent in March, with businesses adding 2,800 workers over the past year.

The bright spot in the Buffalo Niagara job market during March was the continued burst of hiring at local construction firms, which added jobs at a 5 percent annualized pace for its third-straight month of robust hiring. Manufacturers had a solid month, adding jobs at a 0.8 percent annualized pace, while education and health services each grew by 1.6 percent.

But those gains were hurt by job losses in other parts of the economy. Hiring at at local bars, restaurants and hotels fell by 0.9 percent, while employment at local wholesalers dropped by 1 percent and retail jobs shrunk by 0.5 percent.

Job growth across the Buffalo Niagara region during March was less than half of the statewide average and less than a third of the pace of hiring nationally, continuing a long trend of sub-par job growth during the long economic expansion.

Hiring locally was tied with Elmira for the tenth-fastest among the state’s 15 major metro areas.

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